By BRIAN JENNINGS
Although last season could have been quantified with victories and top finishes, Southington coach Dan Dachelet said that he remembers it for the program’s change in culture. He said that a full spectrum of varsity athletes is now buying into the program.
In years past, Dachelet said that athletes were popping in and out of the program, somewhat vested in the program, and maybe took on a dominant personality. He said that the dominant personalities were those that were incredibly vested in the program last season.
“It may not necessarily be their only sport,” said Dachelet. “Some people were coming out of soccer and whatnot. But when they were there, they were all in for the program, and that was the biggest change in last year’s program.”
Dachelet said that the change in culture is setting the program up for success for the upcoming season, not only for the returning athletes, but also for others joining the program.
“When that becomes the dominant culture, other kids then want to try and better themselves,” said Dachelet. “They want to understand the work ethic that’s involved to get better.”
They’re a deeper team this season, but Dachelet said that the coaching staff is making an effort to nudge athletes into events that are out of their comfort zone.
“We’re going to have more depth in the pole vault this year,” said Dachelet. “We had 15 or 20 kids out there working on pole vault yesterday.”
The Blue Knights finished the 2017 regular season at 4-2 overall (3-1 home, 1-1 away) and 2-2 in the CCC Central Blue Division. In the postseason, they placed third overall at the CCC Central Championship, finishing as runner-up in the Blue Division. They entered the Class LL Championship with 24 athletes in 18 events and advanced a pole vaulter to the state open.
The Knights lost 23 of 92 athletes to graduation after last season, including seven athletes that qualified for the state meet. One of those athletes was also a leg in the 800 sprint medley relay that competed at the national meet.
Notable seniors returning to this year’s team include Zachary Burleigh (pole vault), Teagan Duffy (sprints, relays), Jeffrey Hannigan (mid-distance, jumps), Conner Leone (mid-distance, distance), Shane Leone (mid-distance, distance), Jake Monson (throws), Quindran Quintin-Cole (sprints), James Ringrose (relays), and Sean Young (mid-distance, distance).
Burleigh is the only returning all-state athlete and one of two returning all-conference athletes. He placed fourth and 10th at last year’s state meet and state open, finishing last spring with a season best of 13 feet as the only male athlete to represent Southington at the open.
The school record in the pole vault for the outdoor season is 14 feet, and Dachelet said that he would be very shocked if Burleigh didn’t get that mark. He said that Burleigh told him his goal is to qualify for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet, which is a mark of 14’8”.
“Eighteen inches is a lot to ask for in a year,” said Dachelet. “But it’s great that he’s setting the bar high. When you get to kids at this level, they’re all self-motivators.”
Notable juniors returning include Elijah Rodriguez (hurdles), Kolby Rogers (sprints, jumps, relays), Casey Selinske (pole vault, relays), Ryan Slesinski (mid-distance, distance), Joseph Verderame (sprints, relays), and Stephen Witte (sprints).
Rodriguez is the other returning all-conference athlete. He finished last spring as the conference champion in the 110m hurdles with a season best of 15.17.
Based on what he’s done during this past indoor season, Dachelet said that he would be surprised if Rodriguez’s goal is not to be state champion in both hurdling events. He said that Rodriguez was fifth in the state in the 55m hurdles as a junior.
“He’s really starting to be incredibly precise with his hurdles,” said Dachelet. “He’s got a lightning start, and then he’s rhythm from there. He’s not clipping the hurdles.”
Notable sophomores returning include Joseph Albanese (sprints) and John Carreiro (sprints).
All notable returners competed at last year’s state meet.
Dachelet said that seniors Cameron Clynes (decathlon), William Downes (sprints), Keegan Jarvis (throws), Trevor Porter (sprints), and Jack Terray (sprints, jumps); junior Jake Beaupre (sprints, jumps); and sophomore Matthew Penna (distance) can also make an impact on the varsity team this season. Beaupre, Clynes, Jarvis, Penna, and Terray were on last year’s varsity team.
Burleigh, Duffy, Terray, and Verderame were named as team captains for the upcoming season.
Looking at the team on the track and in the field, Dachelet said that the jumps could be a strength for the boys team this season.
“We have six-foot high jumpers, 40-foot plus triple jumpers, and 20-foot plus long jumpers,” said Dachelet. “To do it at a dual meet is fine, but we really need to do it at the conference meet. Rankings don’t score a meet. Performances score a meet.”
Dachelet said that the 100m dash, 200m dash, and hurdles are shallow events for the boys teams, but a core group of seven to eight throwers graduated after last season that had been in the program for most of their high school careers.
“Losing them is big, in terms of that team dynamic,” said Dachelet. “The boys throws program is going to have to reinvent themselves this year.”
Following a realignment of the CCC, Southington is now in the West Colonial Division along with Conard, Hall, and NW Catholic. The West Patriot Division consists of Avon, Farmington, Glastonbury, and Simsbury.
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